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Loss of Innocence
In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, a critical question arises: Are humans simply flesh or does a purpose beyond death exist? In the story, King Hamlet of Denmark perishes and his ghost returns seeking vengeance and revenge upon his unnatural death. Days later, Prince Hamlet investigates the ghost's distasteful claims by gathering entertainers and constructing a play imitating the ghost's story. When the play begins, Prince Hamlet notices his uncle's sudden reaction and concludes that he in fact murdered King Hamlet. After the play prematurely ends, Hamlet stumbles across Claudius, his uncle, repenting his sins. With an opportunity to avenge his father, the prince instead hesitates and heads towards his mother, Gertrude the queen of Denmark. Fearing Hamlet may kill the queen, Polonius, Claudius' Lord Chamberlain, cries for help, leading Hamlet to blindly thrust his sword through the curtains and kill him. As a result, Claudius banishes Hamlet to England. The prince eventually returns to Denmark causing Claudius spitefully to conspire with Laertes, Polonius' son and fine swordsman, to kill Hamlet. Before the fight, the king poisons the tip of Laertes' sword, as well as Hamlet's drink. By accident, Gertrude drinks the poison while both men strike each other. With a few moments left to live, Laertes confesses to cheating and reveals the king's plot. Hamlet angrily grabs the tainted sword and stabs Claudius. Though Hamlet retained noble intentions in avenging his father, his mother's death provokes him to kill Claudius in the end. At first glance, this story seems to be about two men plotting against each other; but when readers look for a deeper meaning, they find Hamlet ignoble and realize his character's connection with humanity as being morally corrupt.
When he looks at his parents' marriage, Hamlet comes to the absurd conclusion that all women are unfaithful and his perception of love begins crumbling; making his attitude towards women vile. King Hamlet's ghost explains to his son that his wife dishonored her wedding vows, and the prince begins falsely assuming that all women share similar, superficial traits. When Ophelia returns Hamlet's gifts to him, he destroys her spirits and rescinds his love from her. He begins condemning women in front of his sweetheart. He yells, '"I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God / has given you one face, and you make yourselves another. / You jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname God's / creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance"' (3.1.141-144). Hamlet falsely accuses Ophelia of prostitution and crushes her weak heart. Their conversation marks his lost of respect for womankind and failure to express his emotions in a healthy fashion.
Hamlet's hesitation to kill Claudius while praying signifies his reasoning preventing him from acting. With simple instruction to murder his father's killer, Hamlet's tendency to over-think inhibits him from restoring his father's honor. After Claudius prematurely ends the play and storms from the theater, Hamlet finds a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius but thought restrains him. Hamlet thinks, '"A villain kills my father; and for that / I his sole son, do this same villain send / to heaven. / O, this is hire and salary, not revenge"' (3.3.76-79). Rather than murdering Claudius like his father would have intended, Hamlet preoccupies himself with Claudius' afterlife and does not act on his instinct. If Hamlet killed his uncle right then and there, his father would have been avenged, and Hamlet's obligation would have been lifted. When Hamlet ignobly yields, Hamlet's imbalance between reason and action as well as man's poor judgment are apparent.
When Prince Hamlet acts without reason, he commits a great injustice which overshadows his immorality. Without proper evidence, or common knowledge, Hamlet unnecessarily ends a life, and feels no remorse for his crime. After Hamlet leaves Claudius in prayer, he goes to his mother's closet and scolds her for dishonoring King Hamlet's marriage. When she fears her son might kill her, Polonius, hiding behind the curtains, cries out and redirects Hamlet's attention. He draws his sword and says '"How now! A rat? Dead for a / ducat, dead!"' (3.4.23-24). He thrusts his sword through the curtains thinking Claudius hides curtain, but mistakenly kills Polonius. Knowing his fault, he fails to remorse and repent for his poor action, but instead uses his mother's faults to justify his wrongdoing. A noble man would have regret killing a man in vain, but Shakespeare uses Hamlet to shows readers the wicked nature of man.
Hamlet's preoccupation with his mother's hasty marriage causes him to dishonor the ghost's instruction. King Hamlet's ghost does not want Hamlet to hurt his mother, but Hamlet does not listen. After Hamlet slaughters Polonius unjustly, he crudely speaks to his about her sexuality and lustful relationship with Claudius; rather than provide his mother with sympathy and compassion regarding her recent loss. In the middle of their conversation, the ghost appears to only Hamlet and reminds him to remember his purpose. King Hamlet's ghost says, '"Do not forget. This visitation / Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose"' (3.4.110-111). Though the ghost warns Hamlet to spare his mother's emotions, he acts poorly in judgment and stubbornly continues hurting his mother emotionally. Shakespeare uses Hamlet's obsession with his mother's reputation to distract him from honoring his father, providing readers with an example of mankind's countless flaws.
When the prince tries avenging King Hamlet's death, he fails and manages to eternally dishonor his father. In the end, Hamlet abandons his task in restoring his father's honor and instead avenges Gertrude, his mother, when she dies from poison. Before a competition between Laertes and Hamlet, Claudius poisons Hamlet's drink, as well as the tip of Laertes' sword, and both men strike each other into absolute death. In the few moments before Laertes death, Hamlet's mother begins fainting, and he confesses Claudius' plot against him. Hamlet grows dangerously furious, stabs Claudius with the tainted sword and yells "'Here thou incestuous, murd'rous damned Dane, / Drink off this potion. Is thy union here? / Follow my mother (5.2.310-313). Claudius dies and Hamlet loses his opportunity to avenge King Hamlet's death. His failure to restrain his emotions causes his Polonius, Ophelia, Gertrude, and five other souls to perish in vain. Hamlet's hesitation towards the beginning of the novel allows Shakespeare to prove that man's nature will always make poor decisions, as well as disgrace the ones before them.
Hamlet expresses true selfishness in his last minutes of life. When he dies, his primary concern remains with his honor and reputation. Before he dies, he wants everyone to know why he murders Claudius so people will admire him. After being stabbed in the chest with a sword, and murdering his uncle, Hamlet asks Horatio, the prince's closest friend, to do a favor. Worrying about his stained named, Hamlet says, '"O God, Horatio, what a wounded name, / Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me! / If thoust didst ever hold me in thy heart / Absent thee from felicity awhile, / And in this harsh world draw my breath in pain, / To tell my story"' (330-334). Prince Hamlet's preoccupation with himself signifies man's selfish desire to be superior, and well-known. Right before Hamlet deceases, Shakespeare brings out the prince's true colors and provides a classic example of mankind's egotistical mentality.
The story of Hamlet, prince of Denmark, signifies every human's internal corruption. Had Hamlet killed Claudius while he was submerged in prayer, Hamlet would have honored his father's death and seven people would have survived. Hamlet's lack of respect, hesitation, poor judgment, incompetency, and selfishness, all lead one to believe that Hamlet carries attributes of an ignoble and dishonorable man. People can clearly see Hamlet beginning with noble intentions, but with time, becomes shameless. With these examples, Hamlet represents the average human, and from his life, we can conclude human nature proves to be degenerate.